Thu, Feb 27, 2014 - Page 8 News List

On easing immigration restrictions

By Chang Kuo-tsai 張國財

More than half a century has passed since Canadian philosopher of commnication theory Marshall McLuhan first coined the term “the global village” in his 1962 work of the same name.

The world has shrunk. Nowadays, a flight can transport a person, quickly and at little inconvenience, to almost anywhere on the planet. However, whether that trip is for study, business or pleasure, a visa is usually required and travelers are not able stay in a foreign land indefinitely. To gain permanent residency in another country, people must subject themselves to reams of bureaucratic red tape, because governments know that immigration changes a country’s population structure and skill set.

International migration comes in four types: labor; spouses or dependents; professionals and skilled workers; and refugees. Every year, tens of thousands of people move out of Taiwan, and just as many arrive. Migration per se is no cause for concern, but it has an impact on a nation and will determine whether it prospers or falters.

The 350,000 Taiwanese who have emigrated to the US and the 160,000 who have emigrated to Canada were able to do so mostly because of their circumstances: a good income, good education and good background. Meanwhile, the majority of those wanting to move to Taiwan are less fortunate, having a lower level of education and less skills. For example, a high percentage of the 400,000 to 500,000 foreign spouses currently in Taiwan are only qualified to do blue-collar jobs.

Most of the Taiwanese who emigrate either have a high social status or are highly skilled workers, whereas most of the people immigrating are foreign spouses or laborers. This is a problem, and is the reason something drastic needs to be done about the nation’s migration policy.

If someone has set their mind on emigrating, there is very little that can be done about it. However, when it comes to people wanting to immigrate, Taiwanese law dictates the regulations.

The government, which is concerned about unpredictable demographics, announced a draft amendment to the Rules Governing Permits for People from Hong Kong and Macau Setting Up Residence or Permanent Residence in Taiwan (香港澳門居民進入臺灣地區及居留定居許可辦法) at the end of last year, which includes increasing the amount needed to be an immigrant investor from NT$5 million (US$165,000) to NT$10 million.

Statistics shows that large numbers of highly skilled workers are emigrating, while large numbers of less skilled workers are settling here, creating an imbalance. White-collar workers wanting to work in Taiwan are required to have at least two years of experience and are to be paid a minimum monthly salary of NT$47,971. The government has decided to ease those restrictions, following a report by the National Development Conference on ways to reinforce the nation’s investor and skilled worker immigration policy.

Will the prescription the conference has written to treat the problem cure it or exacerbate it? Perhaps the answer lies in the experience of more advanced economies. How have other countries’ immigration policies fared?

On Dec. 15 last year, the Sunday Times ran a story on a UK government report that proposed a lowering of the cap on EU immigration from 160,000 to 75,000. The story added that highly skilled workers from Germany and the Netherlands would only need to produce evidence of a position waiting for them to be allowed into the UK, whereas low skilled workers would only be allowed in if they had been offered a job in an industry that had a worker shortage.

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